One of the signs of good writing is finding something of yourself in a character that you don’t really have a whole lot in common with on the surface. That happened for me with Amy Lane’s Clear Water. Patrick, a young 20-something wanna-be yoga instructor with a bad case of ADHD, has just come out to his father over breakfast. His dad is not supportive AT ALL, and he more or less orders Patrick to get over himself and find a girl friend. He seems to be of the opinion that Patrick’s homosexuality is a symptom of his ADHD, but if he’ll just pay attention, he’ll start to like girls. Patrick is kind of stunned, and his ADHD makes it difficult for him to verbalize a coherent response.
Patrick also suffers from a chronic need to have someone, anyone, like and care for him. This leads to a string of not very nice boyfriends (and I use that term very loosely – extended hook-ups might be a better description), all of whom use him for sex and access to his father’s money. The latest of these “boyfriends” actually roofies him and steals his credit cards before driving him off of a bridge to drown.
Whiskey is a mid-30s post-doctoral researcher who is living on a houseboat, studying frogs and wetlands, when he sees the tail end of that last episode with Patrick’s boyfriend. He jumps in the river and saves Patrick, no questions asked. After rescuing Patrick, he brings him back to his houseboat to recover. Both are intensely attracted to the other, but are hesitant to act on the attraction for different reasons. Whiskey is concerned about how much younger Patrick is, while Patrick thinks Whiskey is too smart for him. (In my mind’s eye, Whiskey is Gus from Shameless, and Patrick looks an awful lot like Justin from Queer as Folk.)
Patrick stays with Whiskey for a while, caring for the frog specimens, and finds that he feels a lot of empathy for the two-headed specimen, Cal and Catherine. They never go anywhere because they’re always of two minds about the subject, and that really speaks to Patrick. I’m not going to talk about the plot anymore, other than to say that it was eye-roll inducing, but I really liked Amy Lane’s descriptions of both sides of what it is like to deal with ADHD, for both the sufferer and those that care about them.
And, if you’re wondering what I saw of myself in the story, like Patrick I suffer from a compulsive need to have others like me, as well as a difficult time making decisions and articulate verbalizations. (Writing is completely different since I can edit and re-edit to my heart’s content.) I’m fortunate that I didn’t find myself taken advantage of to the extent that he did, but I see how it could so easily have happened to me.